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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

Note, case diary trigger hectic debate in Chidambaram hearings

Chidambaram’s lawyers said the note was prepared by ED and copied “word by word” in the high court order. The investigating agency, however, denied in the Supreme Court that it filed any such document.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2019 01:18 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
New Delhi
Rejecting Sibal’s assertion, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said: “We have not handed any note to the court but only case diary for its perusal.
Rejecting Sibal’s assertion, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said: “We have not handed any note to the court but only case diary for its perusal.(HT image)
         

Documents related to investigations against P Chidambaram were in focus on Monday as arguments in two courts centred on the Enforcement Directorate’s case diary in the INX Media case and a “note” that lawyers of the former home minister said was prepared by the agency and used by the Delhi high court in its order denying anticipatory bail.

Chidambaram’s lawyers said the note was prepared by ED and copied “word by word” in the high court order. The investigating agency, however, denied in the Supreme Court that it filed any such document.

The INX Media case relates to alleged irregularities in Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance given to the media group for foreign investment to the tune of R305 crore in 2007, when Chidambaram was finance minister. CBI registered a first information report on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in the manner the clearance had been awarded. ED filed a money-laundering case a year later.

Arguing for interim protection for Chidambaram from arrest in the ED case, senior advocate Kapil Sibal told a bench headed by justice R Banumathi that the agency chose not to submit a formal affidavit, but filed a secret note against his client in the Delhi high court.

Rejecting Sibal’s assertion, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said: “We have not handed any note to the court but only case diary for its perusal.” Mehta said he did not know “where Chidambaram’s legal team got the note from, but it was not by ED”.

The former Union minister’s legal team alleged that “word by word, comma by comma of the ED note has been reproduced by the HC judge in his order”.

The Delhi high court on August 20 denied interim protection from arrest to the senior Congress leader following which CBI arrested him from his residence in Jor Bagh.

“This note has been the basis for rejecting Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea on August 20 by the Delhi high court,” Sibal said. He added that ED handed over the note to the court without giving Chidambaram’s legal team a chance to rebut the allegations mentioned in it.

A CBI court in Delhi on Monday extended the custodial interrogation of Chidambaram by CBI by four more days until August 30, hours after the apex court dismissed his appeal against a Delhi high court order quashing his petition seeking protection from arrest in the INX Media case.

The court, however, extended his protection from arrest until Tuesday on a money-laundering complaint lodged in connection with the same case by ED.

In the CBI court, lawyers from both sides sparred over the case diary that was handed over on loose printed papers and not in the form of a booklet. “Look at the case diary. How it has been given on loose printed papers,” Sibal said.

When the judge asked CBI about the format of the document, the solicitor general said that the conventional booklets used for case diaries were “out of stock”. The remarks led to laughter in the courtroom, prompting Mehta to add: “This is not the way. This is a court and the decorum has to be maintained. What is this laughing?”

“I will file the case diary in proper format for the conscience of my lords,” he said.

The solicitor general said the case diary was paginated but not bound as a booklet after Sibal said they were aghast over the shape in which the document was presented.